Can you train your brain to slip into deep focus and connect all the elements of your shooting routines in a single starting point?
Shooting Pointers, Tactical Pointers
Discover Your Starting Point and Improve Your Aiming
Nov 4, 2022
Drawing the pre-season to a close, this Practical Pointer presents a concept that will help you connect all the elements that you have practiced and deepen your focus at the right time. Discover the starting point in aiming.
Natural Point of Aim vs. Starting Point
In our previous Practical Pointer, we discussed how to set up your shooting position at the beginning of the season. A strong and stable position combined with a perfect awareness on how this position looks and feels is the main foundation for any shooting progress. To build strong awareness, you can observe yourself in a mirror or simply watch how you place your feet, hips, and arm. By observing yourself, you create pictures of your position in your mind. While creating these images, think about how your body feels in the position. Later in the season, when you check if everything is in the same place, these images will make your work much easier. Your body will automatically follow the images in your mind and find the right feeling and, through it, the proper position.
A correct position will, on the one hand, allow you to practice this sport without major injures, but, on the other hand, enable you to have a repeatable and simple process of aiming. As aiming is not only performed with the rifle or pistol and its sights but also with the correct position, the position must be built so that the rifle/pistol is placed precisely on the line leading from your body towards the target with as little muscle action as possible. This is why, when you initially set up the position relative to the target, your natural point of aim is the first thing you check.
“Your natural point of aim (NPA), sometimes referred to as zero point, is where your rifle will point without any input from you. It is a combination of your balanced, low tension standing position and the set-up of your rifle. If you do the same thing at the firing point, then the rifle will always point to the same place. The trick is to get that place to be the centre of the 10-ring… and then doing it every time.” (https://peaksmart.co.uk/natural-point-of-aim/)
Once you become familiar with your shooting position and your NPA is the centre of the target, you can introduce another point into your routine. We call it the starting point. You have probably heard from your coaches that your approach to target has to be the same every time. This means that you always approach the centre of the target from the same direction. What we would like to emphasize now is that the starting point of your approach should also always be consistent: yes, your rifle/pistol should come to the centre of the target from the same direction, but it should also start its journey from the same distance point. So, for example, if you’re approaching the target from above, the point at which you start your descent should always be fixed – and not change from the target frame for one shot to just above the black circle for another.
Beside ensuring that your routine is always the same, the starting point has a deeper meaning. If we take time to take a few deep breaths and calm our thoughts before lifting the gun and get the body in the correct position while raising the gun, then the starting point is a great opportunity to sharpen the mind. This point should be the final checkpoint to see if your mind is calm and your body stable. From here on, the focus is completely on seeing the right sight picture and making the shot. So instead of passing this point, become aware of it, stop there for a millisecond and check your body and mind – you will see that by then, more than half the shot has already been taken.
Like all new things, this will also be difficult from the beginning, but once it becomes automatic, it becomes a part of your routine, and this quick pause at the starting point will seem completely normal. In time, you will start seeing the benefits. This point will become another important anchor in your shooting routine that will tie together all the elements you have been practicing individually. With that additional conscious check of the correct progress of your shot, you will also gain confidence to proceed with the fine focus you need to execute your aiming and triggering better.
This can be a great training goal early in the season. You can add it to your dry-firing drill. It will be another element that you can practice during dry firing to make it less boring and, ultimately, provide great benefits from training to focus on the shot itself.
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